Tag Archives: Mass Effect 2

Six Of The Greatest Computer and Video Games Ever

Ever since I could hold a dial contoller and make the lines go up and down on a pong machine I’ve been playing computer games. Not that that qualifies me at all to make any kind of judgement upon what makes a good game or not, it simply shows that I’m getting old and still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea.

So anyway spambots, I have been thinking long and deeply about some of what I consider the best of gaming… EVER!!! Obviously as I write this in the middle of October 2010 it may not be valid for very long… Indeed I might well have changed my mind by tomorrow, but here goes:

6) Mass Effect 2 – This game truly is a work of genius. Just about the only adventure game I’ve ever played where I actually gave a stuff about what NPCs had to say. I must have sat through hours of dialogue and not got bored, wore out the continue button, fell asleep or went off in search of food once. Remarkable. In addition, I don’t think I got lost in game either, saving literally tonnes of virtual shoe leather. Good adventures? This is how it’s done!

5) Modern Warfare 2 – The second sequel on our list proves the point that video games are utterly unlike videos. For those of you who are 20 years old or less a video is an archaic device used to store films and movies. They were big plastic bulky things, and if you were posh you could put them in covers that made them look like books from the side. Anyway, most movie sequels are about flogging the dead horse in a vain attempt to cash in. Game sequles are about taking a game and making it better. MW2 happens to be just about the greatest FPS game, technically and especially playability wise. Single player – great, multiplayer – amazing, co-operative – a right laugh. Yes PC owners whinge that it doesn’t have LAN support. It’s best played on a console where the playing fields are level and victory cannot be bought at your local PC component store.

4) Grand Theft Auto 4 – I know a guy from eastern europe who happens to be called Niko. He also looks like the protagonist of this great game. Fortunately he has never tried to carjack me or rob a bank. I did pay him to help paint my house and assemble a bathroom though, and I would say that maybe he’d be wise to keep his options open for a career in crime. Regardless, GTA4 is amazing. The attention to detail is fantastic. Even if breaking the law is not your thing you can spend hours watching the TV, going to shows and surfing the internet in game. It’s seriously hilarious. The game proper though is a great high quality adventure into the seedy underworld of Liberty City, with enough freedom to keep you playing for days. It’s the jewel in the crown of Rockstar Games, but also recommended are the similar Grand Theft Cowboy (Red Dead Redemption) and Grand Theft School (Bully).

3) Gears Of War 2 – Want a game with sex drugs and rock n’ roll? Pfff… that’s for wimps! Get up close and personal with one of the most brutal and excitng games you’ll ever play! Once you’ve hacked, slashed, blasted and sawed your way through an excellent single player or co-op campaign, you then have the further fun of brilliant multiplayer options. Gears of War 2 has a serious ace which will keep you hacking, slashing, blasting and sawing for years to come. What? Two words – Horde Mode.

2) Bayonetta – What the heck is this doing at number two? I’ll tell you what, it’s a veritable feast of awesome. Everything about this game is absolutely stunning and I’d say that even if the main character was a fat bloke called Dave who walks around with his wang out. Visually it’s incredible, aurally it’s amazing and it all glues together with such seamless effortlessness and flow to produce the ultimate beat ’em up. Give typewriters to an infinite number of monkeys and eventually they’ll produce the full works of Shakespeare. Give computers and hallucinogenic drugs to an infinite number of programmers and I don’t think they’d come close to producing something this crazily amazing.

1) World Of Warcraft – The greatest game ever made. Seriously. Hmm, I am beginning to doubt my own sanity. But just look at it, Warcrack is so immersive that it’s very hard to find a regular player who hasn’t had some kind of addiction to the game. It’s phenomenal once you get into it, all you need is a PC with GameBoy type specifications and a smattering of social skills and you are off into this crazy world of adventure which can and literally will suck your life away. The repercussions of Warcrack will become apparent in a few years as a generation comes of age lacking in qualifications and suntans, having squandered the best years of their lives holed away in basements doing the safety dance and grinding their Hodir rep. Good? – definitely. Addictive? – dangerously!

Things Not On This List:

1) Old games – Populous was great. Notice the WAS. Resident Evil was incredible. Again notice the WAS. They’ve all been redone, a million times better on far superior hardware. Only a true masochist or someone living at the bottom of a swamp would think that Elite is still the best space opera game ever. Groundbreaking, yes, the best game ever to grace the BBC Micro, sure. Possibly the best game on the planet by a long way on it’s release. Take off your rose tinted spectacles, play it on an emulator and see how it pales in comparison to games you can even get on your mobile phone.

2) Nintendo – Run by plumbers? Never played any of their games in any serious measure (well not since they refused to add blood to Mortal Kombat on the SNES, a bit like doing a wrestling game without the spandex). I do own a Wii, which is revolutionary in terms of game controllers but its a kind of fun thing for social gatherings. I don’t rush home from work to get in a round of Wii Sports Golf. Oh yeah, Goldeneye 64 was the best game of it’s day, but see ‘1) Old Games’.

3) Any Other MMO – Warcraft is far more popular. Admit it, you invested 3 months in levelling a toon in a game people only play when the WoW servers run maintenance.

4) Sonic The Hedgehog – Haha not a chance you spikey freak!

How Many Tauren Can You Fit on a Mesa? – 6 Inch Move Explores Level Design

While we are primarily a tabletop wargaming blog we sometimes offer up other topics, from music to video games and anything else that really falls under the “art” bracket, because really, that’s what all these things are. Now, for today I have something to express that I have been thinking about a lot recently, however, being a lowly IT Manager I am completely unqualified in the arena that I want to talk about. Good job this is the Internet then, where people with no qualifications on the subject matter can offer forth their opinion in a spirit of wisdom and understanding. It’s almost like being a critic, but without the wisdom and understanding part.

Referring back to an earlier post where I talked through virtual worlds, whether literary or audio-visual and their ability to suck us in with an immersive experience. In the video game context that I want to use the primary method for this is the level design. No matter how awesome the story, if the environment around you doesn’t feel right then things start to jar. However, some poor environments can be overlooked if a good story makes use of what is there. I reckon that we therefore need to start off with an example; look no further than perennial MMO giant World of Warcraft, a virtually seamless world where you can walk from one end of a continent to another without seeing a loading screen. Certainly one of the features that has endeared me to the game over the years, I don’t think at the time of release any other MMO allowed you to go through the game world in such a seamless manner, I came from EQ where you’d warn your guild you were “zoning” if they were going to be talking about stuff while you switched areas and had to load.

Even in such a seamless environment with varying climates as you walk around the place there are a few things that stick out to me. Azeroth is a living and breathing world, filled with magical creatures beyond count and home to a vast array of humanoid species. So, let me ask you, do you really believe that each of those civilisations can acutally live in large numbers in their capital cities? Hopefully you can see what I mean, while cities like Silvermoon, Stormwind and Ironforge seem like they could harbour a large number of people, the designs and layouts of the others do not make that impression, at least to me. I cannot believe that the entire civilisation of Tauren can live on such a small pinnacle of rock as Thunderbluff is. I would imagine that there are thousands of Tauren for a world as big as Azeroth, sure they have outposts here and there but none of those look like they are habitable either. I think quest hubs are a great show of bad design, they are there to show a collection of people who never move and just serve up quests. None of the camps that I can think of from the top of my head actually look like people could survive in them. If you look at a game like Vanguard or Age of Conan the cities there really are sprawling and you can imagine a good number of people living in them.

For me, badly laid out towns, cities and villages break my “immersion” I am reminded that I am playing a game and even though these fantasy worlds make their own world I will still apply preconceptions from real world examples when I am playing. If I do not register a place as fitting within those parameters then my suspension of disbelief is broken.

Another game where this comes into relief is Mass Effect 2 that I have been playing recently. Here is a game with a fantastic world with a Codex that breathes huge amounts of background into the universe with believable characters and a moving story. I find it very easy to engage with the Mass Effect series and Bioware games in general. However, at certain times the level design leaves a lot to be desired, while in general each of the places that you visit you can imagine expanding beyond the areas that you can physically walk around, sometimes the way you are guided through specific areas and seem to be “on rails” sours the experience. In ME2 I have recently been completing the loyalty quests for my crew, I only have Jacob left to do, having successfully completed all the others on my first male Shepard, the Paragon option I use. I like these quests because they expand upon the characters history, they are short so they don’t detract from the main mission and you can quite happily spend a little time just hammering these out and seeing what happens and what options you get. Yet some of the levels you go around just seem out-of-place. While you are walked through a lot of areas to get to objectives things you can see in the periphery work in their favour, going through the Migrant Fleet fighting Geth feels like you are on a ship, however, going through the “labs” on Tuchanka doesn’t feel the same.

I put this, rightly or wrongly, down to the quality of level design. As I said before I am not a level designer, I have no creative input into these processes but as a gamer I know what feels right and what doesn’t. Generally not all levels are going to be stellar in terms of their quality but it’s one of the most unfortunate aspects of gaming that you get involved in a story or a world and you come across something that rips you back into your seat and reminds you that you are a fleshy human sitting in a chair in a living room or study plugged into a video game. Not that I have a problem with our world, it is certainly a unique creation filled with wonder, we humans just end up trapped into a very small part of it.

I’m also not espousing that all games should have a huge and open world where you can go anywhere or do anything, I kind of like being walked through things in Mass Effect, it means you are always headed towards your goal and not getting lost. However, I’d like to think that eventually we can get to a point where a world really feels lived in through all its environments, this may be one of those holy grails of gaming when we talk about immersion and there are certainly games that give this a good go.